Everyone seems to be on a quest for the "perfect" something: the perfect guy, the perfect burger, the perfect kid, the perfect neighborhood. As long as we're talking about earthbound people, places and things, I think perfection is a complete myth.
Clearly, I'm not alone. Some people have made a hobby or even a career out of humorously pointing out the world's -- and even their own -- lack of perfection. Fellow Huffington Post contributor and mother of six, Rachel Toalson, likens parenting to "living in an insane asylum." You laugh, and then you realize she's kinda not joking. The Twitter handle "you had one job" hilariously points out what happens when one specific task is simply one task too many. Mom Jeans & Dad Jokes is a family blog that, sometimes heroically, points out how family mishaps are just a part of what makes us who we really are. Read their wedding-day story, and you'll wonder how this family ever even got off the ground.
Even with some embracing life's serial imperfections, lots of folks still look for the perfect guy, perfect job or even the perfect car. As much as I love the artistry and engineering marvel that is the modern automobile, I have to admit that the "perfect car" is an illusion. The truth is the perfect car is vastly different for each person. Well, OK, for most 15-year-old boys, the perfect car might be a red Lamborghini Aventador, but eventually, those boys mature and learn about things like public parking, budgets and salaries, and they may even be forced to do something like go antiquing. Add a bit of reality, and the Lambo ceases to seem so perfect. Apply a little bit of this thinking to finding a mate, and the dating world would become far less tumultuous.
The other day, a friend asked one of the most well-informed car questions I've ever heard. Usually, people ask the question: "What's the best car?" Well, there really is no answer for that; it varies from person to person. But this time, the guy asked, "What do you think is the best family car for under $50,000?" Now we're getting somewhere! This person realizes that price and use form the bulk of what makes a car good (for you) or not.
Years ago, before I realized there is no one perfect car, I used to give the same answer every time. "The Chevy Tahoe is the perfect car," I'd say. There's nothing the Tahoe won't do: It goes off-road, handles rough weather, can tow, has three rows of seating, offers a convertible cargo area, can be had in an ultra-sparse trucklike base trim or semi-luxurious LTZ trim, it's good-looking, has lots of storage areas and is reasonably priced (well, the price is a bit of an issue now that an all-new version is available). Get the features most families will expect, and now you're talking about a $65,000-$70,000 vehicle. I still like it, but maybe a budget-friendly certified pre-owned Chevrolet Tahoe is the way I'd go now.
So Many Good Choices
Back to my friend's question: a good family car for less than $50,000? I'd have to include a used Acura RLX, Ford Flex, Honda Accord EX-L, Honda Odyssey, Kia Cadenza and a new or used Lexus ES 350. There's probably one or two flaws with each of these choices, but your own perception depends on what you think "family-friendly" means, such as offering a third-row seat.
If money were no object, I'd personally opt for a $200,000, 616-horsepower Bentley Continental Flying Spur with a cream-colored leather interior, but I'm constantly amazed at how many people consider, for example, the Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf as the perfect car. For some, the perfect car is a low-mileage, used Toyota Corolla, and there are many great examples on sale for less than $10,000.
If you're shopping for a new or new-to-you car, don't fool yourself into thinking there's a perfect car out there. Think of it more like how you met your spouse or how you happened to settle down in Phoenix or Ypsilanti or Oakland. When it comes to finding the right car, there's no such thing as perfect; there's just perfect for you.